After Deng: On China's Transformation

In the Nation, Joshua Kurlantzick writes about modern Chinese politics in the post-Deng Xiaoping era in the context of two new books: On China, by Henry Kissinger and Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China by Ezra Vogel: Ever since the Communist Party came to power in 1949, forceful, unifying figures have dominated the political arena and the PLA. The first was Mao Zedong, who used his unparalleled charisma and political genius to pit rivals against one another, to create a cult of personality and to exert ruthless control over the country’s political system. After Mao came Deng Xiaoping, whose photo should be plastered above Tiananmen Square instead of his predecessor’s, as he used his vast political savvy and dominance of the party and military to wrench China from the abyss of the Cultural Revolution and set in place the most breathtaking economic development in modern history. Lacking a unifying figure like Deng or Mao, China’s leadership today is a mostly faceless group of longtime party engineers who have scaled the ranks not by fighting in wars or developing political and economic ideologies but rather by cultivating higher-ranking bureaucrats and divulging as little as possible about their ideas and plans. The current Chinese president, Hu Jintao, epitomizes the cipher-as-strategy approach. Before assuming power in 2004, Hu had said so little on any topic of importance that both conservatives and liberals in China claimed him as one of their own. Since then, Hu has displayed minimal public emotion and avoids even the most scripted interactions with the media and most party outsiders. Hu’s presumed successor, who will assume power in 2012–13, is Vice President Xi Jinping; though he has slightly more charisma than the wooden Hu, he will not remind anyone of Mao or Deng. When Xi has displayed any public ...
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One Response to After Deng: On China's Transformation

  1. Will says:

    Xi Jinping’s expression of a “sour, aggrieved nationalism” or ultranationalism provides little hope that the incoming group of Party oligarchs on the Standing Committee of the Politburo will be any more receptive to international norms of political accountability and civil rights protection than their predecessors have been. It looks like more of the same old single-party Leninist authoritarian repression of basic liberal values.